I’m not the kind of guy that naturally loves following the rules. I’m an adult, so I like to make my own rules. Sometimes I take my sweet Honda Accord a few miles over the speed limit, just for the thrill. It’s also not uncommon for me to eat cookies right before dinner, even though my mother taught me better. But seriously, even when it comes to more important areas of life, I sometimes struggle with being told what to do and what not to do.
Rules are everywhere! We have rules at school, we have rules at home, we even have rules at church. We have rules every day of the week! Seriously, our rules have rules.
Especially in high school, it sometimes seems that if you’re being a good Christian it means you constantly have to say ‘no’ to things. You might look at your friends’ weekend schedule and think, “Gosh, I can’t do this, or this, or that, and definitely not that!”
It can be easy to get caught up in the rules and even turned off by them. This can be a deterrent for us when we’re trying to follow Jesus.
Often times, we’re not the only ones who feel like we have too many rules. The rest of society has noticed too. It seems that it’s always the Church vs. the World, Pop Culture vs. The Vatican, or the Pope vs. the President.
I don’t know about you but for me, it’s exhausting to constantly defend myself and my faith to everyone because it seems that as a Christian, I’m always preaching to my friends about what the Church says is wrong. After a while, telling people what I’m against gets pretty old.
What’s It All About?
Why do I do this? The reality is, our Church is so much bigger than a set of rules. While the guidelines we live by and worship by help us to follow Jesus more closely, it’s ultimately about more than being in line. It’s about being in love. The guidelines, morals, and ethics passed on to us have one purpose: to help us get to Heaven.
What I’ve found to be more life-giving is to tell people about what my Church is for, not just against, and to tell people what my Church says is right, not just what is wrong.
A simple example would be instead of saying, “I’m anti-abortion because it’s terrible,” you could say “I’m pro-life, because life is a sacred gift from God.” This approach is beautiful because it reminds us that Jesus truly did come so we could have abundant life (John 10:10)! It’s up to us as Christians to live that abundant life and let the world see it.
We don’t have a strict God who wants to control us. We have a loving God who wants us to know what it feels like to be truly alive. He know’s what is best for us. Believing that isn’t easy, but it is key to Christian life.
I do believe that in the guidelines set for us by our Church we will find the answers to many of our questions. I believe that in those guidelines we’ll find solutions to many of our problems and clarity to many of our confusions. I believe that sin is death, and if Jesus came for us to have abundant life, He is also guiding us down the path of life. The Church that Jesus founded also has the same goal for us. It’s not to ‘miss out’ on life like so many people think it is. It’s actually to truly experience life.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a man who some people felt was too much of a ‘rules guy’, had this to say on the subject:
“Christian ethics and faith do not stifle love: they make it strong, healthy, and truly free. That is the exact meaning of the Ten Commandments, which are not a series of ‘no’s’ but a series of ‘yes’s’ to love and to life.”
Now, getting the rest of the world to see it this way is up to us. We shouldn’t just accept the ‘rules’ as our punishment for being miserable sinners and joylessly follow them until we die. We also shouldn’t throw the rules out the window because we don’t like them or understand them.
Instead, we should commit to learning why the guidelines and moral teachings of our Church exist. We should try to see them not as saying ‘no’ to fun, but rather as saying ‘yes’ to life; both the life God has for us here on Earth and the eternal life that awaits us in Heaven.
If you’ve ever struggled with all of the ‘rules’ or guidelines, it doesn’t make you a bad Christian. We’re all in this together.
If you need help understanding them, talk to your parish priest, parent, Core Member, or anyone else you trust. You could also pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you need forgiveness for times you’ve strayed, frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you need prayers, count on mine and don’t be afraid to ask others for them.
Being a Christian isn’t an easy task. It is, however, the most rewarding. Fight for Heaven.